I would desperately like to include a photograph. However, even though I have been snap-happy recently, and even though the woman was extremely nonchalant, I thought she might not feel as nonchalant if I started strobing her with the flash.
Background: Most would consider me a pretty hardcore breastfeeding advocate. [Of course, it isn't my business to tell other people what to do, and I think it is best not to question why another woman chooses not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be difficult and it is more difficult for some than for others. Also, there may be factors at play that one can't know about.] I nursed all three of my children until they were between 18 months and two years of age. None of them ever had any formula, and none of them had any solid food before they were six months old. Also, because I never got the knack of pumping, I was never without them for the first six months of their lives. Does this qualify me as hardcore?
What I saw: As I approached the checkout line at Costco, I found myself behind a woman pushing a full cart of groceries with one arm, nursing a newborn under a blanket cradled in her other arm, and with her head kinked at an angle, talking on her cellphone at the same time! It was time for her to put her groceries on the belt, and the clerk was tentatively smiling with perhaps a slight sense of “what should I do now?”
I deliberated for a second about whether I should start moving her groceries to the belt before getting her permission (she was not paying attention to the grocery situation enough for me to gesture). Her purse was right there and well– I’m just wimpy–fear of people being angry with me and all. Then she got off the phone. So I asked if I could help, and she said yes, expressing her gratitude. It wasn’t hard to help of course and it actually sped things up for me, since I was behind her in line. As I left, I saw her still cradling the baby in one arm under the blanket, and with the other, pushing the heavy cart slowly out of the store.
What is good about this: It is great that any woman in our culture could possibly be so nonchalant about this natural and important practice. I always wanted to feel free to breastfeed anywhere, and felt I should feel free to breastfeed anywhere, but even though people were nice to me, I never made it all the way to comfort with breastfeeding whenever and wherever I went. Although I did breastfeed in public many times, I also spent a lot of time nursing in more private spots because it was more comfortable although less convenient. Breastfeeding is good for babies. Anything our culture can do to help women feel more comfortable about breastfeeding, anything that makes it more convenient, is good for babies. So yea for nonchalance!
What is bad about this: Where was this woman’s support network? Husband? Friends? Coworkers? Religious community? Kind neighbor? The woman mentioned that she couldn’t leave the baby behind and therefore couldn’t get a sitter. But could someone else not have done the shopping or gone with her? Call me, I’ll go.
Some unsolicited advice:
1. If you are breastfeeding as you approach the checkout, this is not a good time to make or receive telephone calls. If the call is that important, it is not a good time to be approaching the checkout.
2. You might find that you finish your errand more quickly if you find some place to sit down (not many at Costco I know–but how about a comfy couch or office chair, if all else fails? It isn’t more public than the check out line) and finish nursing before resuming your shopping and/or checking out.
3. If it is possible for you to hire a sitter, but you can’t/won’t because you can’t/won’t leave your baby alone, consider hiring the “sitter” to be a grocery cart “pusher” instead. An 11 year old could do that if necessary. I have one. I’ll rent her out cheap!
4. Ask for help. If you don’t have any support network to speak of, ask strangers for help. You need it and the planet is depending on you! In general, people are happy to be helpful to people with newborns.
Lastly: Hugs to all the new moms who don’t have strong support networks and are going through all that new and crazy, wonderful and scary, tough stuff for the first time and don’t know what they’re doing yet. A lot of us have been there, and we’re pulling for you.